Long before there was Amazon, there was a store in Toronto Canada called “The World’s Biggest Bookstore”. It was just off the world famous Yonge Street strip right downtown. Standing on the extra wide curbs outside you could find grown men painted silver and pretending to be static robots, South American expats with gas masks and aerosol cans of spray paint creating instant art, and of course a dirty white guy with knotted dreads playing drums on an old 5 gallon plastic pail. It was an eclectic environment to buy a book, grab a coffee for fifty cents and watch the world go by.
I remember skipping Calculus class and heading downtown to prowl the massive bookshelves. Being a starving student, I would gravitate to the used book section. It was in the lower level near the back that I found it. A pretty red-headed girl in my Psych 101 class had mentioned Think And Grow Rich after I told her that one day I was going to be a millionaire. Instead of mocking me or giggling, she got a serious, somber look on her face. Her father was a pediatrician and was wealthy. He had made her read the book in Grade 11 along with Atlas Shrugged. I think it had a reverse effect on her. She was into smoking weed and going out drinking Wednesday to Sunday night. She was fun to hang out with in small doses, but her dark jaded views on life was a total bummer after she had downed a few tequila shots. But she pointed me towards a book that would change my life.
Just twenty three months after reading Think And Grow Rich I was homeless, bankrupt, and destitute.
“Thanks a lot Napoleon you hammerhead!” I exclaimed staring at my sunken cheeks, greasy hair and grimy beard stubble in the cracked mirror of the gas station bathroom. When you painfully exist on nearly zero protein and 4 dollars a day, your brain starts grasping at something or someone to blame. In my case my whipping boy was a long dead author who never forced me to screw up any of the ideas in his amazing book. Learning to accept personal responsibility was a heavy lesson for me.
Three of the businesses that I had started had all failed at nearly the same time in 1991. I made every cliche mistake that a 22 year old wanna-be entrepreneur could make. I burned through cash like a drunken Ben Bernanke. I bought the souped up sports car, rented the expensive apartment, hired ridiculous employees and brought on even more ludicrous partners that helped themselves to my cash flow…until it was all gone.
The good news is that the disheveled wreck rode out the rough patch. I might have been on welfare in 1992, but by 1996 I had a couple of websites that were making me money. I had a bunch of clients that I was making sites for. I started really small and grungy, kept my overhead low, socked away my cash flow and never looked back. The hardest lessons only had to be learned once.
In the past 16 years I have pretty much seen it all when it comes to internet marketing. My affiliate ID with the world’s largest email marketing company is #2. I have owned several large affiliate networks of my own, bought and sold sites for profit, built several email lists of over a hundred thousand niche subs, was a proud member of the “Fedex Club”, and had numerous five and six figure paydays over the years. Sometimes my timing was early, occasionally I was late to a party or two, and in 2008 I was right on time when I sold off several of my sites before the market crashed.
You learn a lot about yourself when you are on the bottom rung of society’s economic ladder. I know many of the people reading this have had the proverbial tar beat out of them by the economy over the past few years. The good news? You’ll be fine. Take heart. Remember:
1. Stuff is just stuff
I had the giant brick cellphone that weighted 15 pounds and looked like you were holding a microwave oven to your head. You had to yell into the thing at 2 bucks a minute to try to look cool. Your new IPhone 5 won’t impress the hotties anymore than the vintage brain cooker did back in 1990. Stuff is just stuff. Strive to live a simple, elegant life based on quality.
2. The Internet is all about people
Back in 1996 you could keyword stuff your way to the top of Alta Vista. That’s what we called Google back then. The guys that write crap eventually get found out and flused. If you write for robots, don’t be surprised when your income flat lines and vanishes. Think of the graffiti artists spray painting in alleyways. They don’t make a good living. Strive for quality in your websites. Would you want your grandmother to see your work?
3. SEO is intentionally confusing to keep amateurs intrigued
The reason it is so interesting is because of the progressive nature of it. Becoming skilled at SEO is like taking swimming lessons at a public pool. At first you get to blow bubbles and open your eyes underwater. Then you learn to float on your stomach, then kick your legs, and within a few months you are doing entire laps of the pool. That’s why swimming lessons have a graduated badge system. Just like martial arts. Just like video games. We are fascinated by SEO because of the mysterious nature of the new increasing skill levels. It never stops. I repeat…mastering SEO is a lifetime passion. Give yourself enough time and practical experience to get good at it.
4. Time flows in one direction so maximize it’s value
The internet rewards you for patience. Articles I wrote in 1999-2002 are spread across thousands of websites a decade later. If you take pride in your writing, create quality and relevant content, and are consistent and deliberate then you will win. But don’t fool yourself. If you haven’t created your first hundred essays yet, then you are still a tadpole in the shallow end of the pool. Stay humble and write about your existence. Focus on expanding, exploring and sharing that existence.
5. Hang around the right people
The right people are those older than you and younger than you. The young ones will fill you with vitality, energy, and optimism. The older ones will show you what not to do. By the time you develop hair in your ears, you need to be hanging around with younger people a lot. By the time the hair in your ears starts to turn gray, you have probably earned the right to dispense wisdom to others.
Now that I have earned my graying ear hair, the biggest pearl of wisdom that I can share with serious bloggers and entrepreneurs is to avoid being a complainer at all costs. Those that are more successful than you will go out of their way to steer clear of your whining. The juicy joint ventures, partnerships and strategic alliances that you hear about will never happen if you get a reputation as a cry baby in a sling. It’s essential that when you are in public and around your peers that you have a relaxed intensity, an upbeat demeanor and energize others with your enthusiasm. Protect your reputation at all costs, it’s the only one you have.
When I used to sit on the steps outside the World’s Biggest Bookstore I would dream of a day like today. The sun is shining, my income streams are creating my ideal lifestyle, and my words are travelling the globe reaching eyeballs from Melbourne to Madrid. Stay the course. Don’t you dare quit. I promise you it’s worth it.